Companies involved in petroleum refining operations or that import chemical substances used in such operations should be aware of a recent regulatory proposal issued by U.S. EPA under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that could impact their operations. On January 23, 2013, EPA proposed what is referred to as a significant new use rule, or “SNUR,” for four chemical substances used in chemical manufacturing and petroleum refineries. The SNURs would require persons who intend to manufacture, import, or process any of the four chemical substances for certain prescribed new uses to notify EPA at least 90 days before commencing that activity. 78 Fed. Reg. 4806. EPA would evaluate the reported new use and, if necessary, may prohibit or limit the activity before it occurs. The four SNURs were originally issued as direct final SNURs in September of 2012 but, because the Agency received adverse comments on the SNURs, they are now being issued in proposed form on which EPA will accept comments until February 22, 2013.
What chemical substances are affected? The chemical substances for which EPA has proposed SNURs are identified in EPA’s notice as pentane, 1,1,1,2,3,3-hexafluoro-4-(1,1,2,3,3,3-hexafluoropropoxy) (PMN number P-07-204; CAS number 870778-34-0), to be used as a heat transfer fluid, and partially fluorinated alcohol substituted glycols (PMN numbers P-10-58, P-10-59, and P-10-60), to be used as intermediates (P-10-58 and P-10-59) and as a surface active agent (P-10-60).
What is a significant new use? TSCA authorizes EPA to determine that a particular use of a chemical substance is a “significant new use,” triggering a requirement for regulated entities to submit a significant new use notice (SNUN) at least 90 days prior to manufacturing, importing, or processing the chemical substance for that use. TSCA § 5(a)(2). Persons subject to the SNURs must follow regulatory procedures mirroring those required for EPA’s evaluation of new chemical substances in connection with submissions of premanufacture notices (PMNs). Upon receiving a SNUN from a person seeking to use the chemical substance for the significant new use, EPA may take regulatory action to control the activities covered by the SNUN, including through the use of consent orders. In this way, EPA is able to impose binding conditions not only on the original submitter of a PMN, but also on the subsequent manufacture, import, or processing of the chemical substance for the significant new use by other individuals.
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